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Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 01:25 pm

The cad catalogue

Three years ago, I was divorced six weeks from a 22-year marriage when I got involved with a married co-worker and persuaded him to divorce his wife for me. He has been married five times and cheated on all of his wives. I have reason to believe he’s still having sex with his ex-wife. I’m not sure what to do. I refinanced my house a few months after meeting him and paid off his and his wife’s $14,000 credit card debt (my idea, to help him out of the marriage). He’s been repaying me $250 a month, although I also usually pay for his plane ticket here. (I moved for work.) He’s a pretty bad alcoholic. Not a mean one, just a goofy one. I know he has a bad marital track record, but he’s in his 50s; his marriage-hopping has to stop…you’d think. Crazy as it seems, I’m madly in love. He is charming, is generous and shows me he loves me in little ways – cards, phone calls, etc. Really, I’m not dumb. I’m a librarian with a master’s. But, tell me: How bad is this? –Shhhh…

He doesn’t sound like an evil person; he just is who he is: an undercapitalized, serially married goofy drunk who’s probably sleeping with his ex-wife. Three years ago, you were just-divorced and probably panicking about your prospects, when you spotted your Mr. Right (aka an age-appropriate, conveniently located, attractive man with a pulse). Hellooo, confirmation bias! That’s a common human irrationality – the tendency to snuggle up to information that confirms what you want to believe and to ignore any information that doesn’t.

The more some choice costs you the more driven you’ll be to defend it – like when you’ve abruptly thrown 14K at the idea that you can change a man who thinks soulmates come in six-packs. And no, you aren’t that “dumb”; you’re just that human. Deep down, you know that love – real love – is never having to say, “Are you cheating on me with your ex-wife?”

Keep in mind that the term “madly in love” refers to a state where you aren’t making rational decisions. You need to get in the habit of standing back from your life and assessing what you’re doing – especially when you’re at your neediest. Recognize your human propensity to act irrationally – to let your emotions lead and then to mop up afterward with a bunch of self-justifications. If you can accept yourself as human and fallible, you won’t feel so compelled to toss less-than-flattering facts in the hall closet behind the badminton net. Be open with yourself (and even your friends) about your flaws and fears and you should start managing them in healthier ways – instead of paying off a bunch of pantsuits a guy’s wife bought five years ago at Macy’s and telling yourself you’ve found love.
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